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Dave Kruger’s Bartender in the Gulf Islands

Dave Kruger is an Astoria, Oregon based kayaking pal whose posts on Paddlewise (www.paddlewise.net to join the email list) and on West Coast Paddlers (www.westcoastpaddlers.com) are very popular and entertaining reads. (Catch his story archive at http://www.kayaktrips.net/sea-kayak/cat_dave_kruger.html .) Dave has also moved to a “mothership” form of cruising and over the past two years has built his 19-foot Bartender from scratch using only the plans. A different approach than mine but one that has given him the “playboat” of powerboats. Here is his recent account of a week long trip to the Gulf Islands of B.C. (Canada) with his partner, Becky. After so many years kayak camping they are moving slowly into the mothership arena.

Surf Scoter in the Gulf Islands by Dave Kruger

Becky and I grabbed a week of mostly sunshine in the Gulf Islands, scooting about in the Bartender, accumulating some 140 nautical miles and a handful of anchorages.  We favored marinas, at Becky’s preference, and scoped out a

Dave Kruger's Bartender Mothership "Surf Scoter"

Dave Kruger's Bartender Mothership "Surf Scoter"

bunch of tasty hideaways for later exploration and overnighting on the hook.

We used Ladysmith as our focal point, partly for its central location, but mainly for its laid-back atmosphere and friendly, low-key pace.  Ladysmith is a relic of boom eras of coal-mining, copper ore smelting, and logging, dating back to the end of the 19th century when a major coal seam initially mined under Nanaimo’s outskirts was “extended” south underground.  Today, it is a bit sleepy but with plenty of character, adequate services, a huge, inexpensive boat ramp, and a friendly, low-budget mooring opportunity in the form of the Ladysmith Maritime Society Community Marina (see below). Not to mention, a convenient source of Marked fuel (aka no road tax), just off Hwy 1, north of town.  Grocery store, fuel, couple good medium-priced restaurants, four coffee shops, dockage, character, an ATM.  What else do you need?  Thanks to Bill and Sandy Childs for introducing me to the LSMSCM, at last year’s Bartender Get Together.

My son, his wife, and their border collie joined us for a jaunt over to Don Froese’s digs near Montague Harbour the first night, a load of cargo which maxed out Surf Scoter.  Not unsafely loaded, but definitely close to its limit … reaching about 16-17 knots over and 19-20 knots on the return when we had a better distribution of weight fore and aft.  My tach was on the blink that run, so I don’t have an exact figure, but suspect WOT was about 3000 rpm (normally 3600-3700).  The rest of the days, we ran at 16-18 knots, just under 3000 rpm, but had another 5 knots if needed, even with full fuel, water, and gear for three-four days out.

After dropping them off back at Ladysmith, we hit the Transfer Beach Grill on Hwy 1, near the traffic light above the old railroad engine repair facility (now housing a door manufacturing operation).  Highly recommended food and folks, who once ran a lesser offering on the beach.  Purple martins sang us to sleep, with the rain pattering down. Silva Bay Resort Marina, Newcastle Island Marine Park, and the Salt Spring Marina at Ganges served us well, other nights, but Ladysmith was far and away our fave.

Next day, we took it easy through Gabriola Pass to Silva Bay, and were greeted by … no water.  No showers, no toilets, etc.!  But, only ten bucks for the night!  Luckily, the water appeared in time for Becky’s nightly shower, as did the rain, again.  Lotta time under the mooring cover, but the ample storage capacity of the cockpit made for a comfy time.  Our minimalist cooking style adapted well to coffee on the float in the morning, and sandwiches and hot soup, evenings.  Eating out of a small cooler seems like luxury, after 15 years of sea kayak-cookery, I’ll tell you!  BTW, Page’s in Silva Bay seemed in fine shape, and claimed they have been having a good year, straight through the slack time in the winter. The wet spring seems to have favored greening the grounds, and it was very pretty.

Next couple nights were at Newcastle off Nanaimo, a very pleasant spot in the shoulder season … quiet, open, fresh, and yet the coffee shop was open, days, in the Pavilion.  Naturally, we had to visit Harbour Chandlery up the hill in Nanaimo for things I forgot.  Becky found a couple books she had to have.  Returning south, we ran Dodd Narrows a second time, each passage off peak current (maybe 2-3 knots).  Actually, Gabriola Pass was more fun, and a lot more interesting.

Ganges the next day was its usual overload of tourist-oriented hype, and I was relieved to get back to the boat, although Becky found the Tree House Cafe interesting, and would have spent a couple hours wandering through art galleries.  Next day was Saturday Market, which we missed, as we hit the water early, headed back to Ladysmith for a last night before haul out early the next morning, to trailer back on Sunday.

This was our first multi-day jaunt, sleeping and living aboard; we found the stretched cockpit a fine space for all of our daytime needs and the cuddy a plenty adequate space for sleeping.  Having the engine box as the centerpiece, we used it for a table, sit-upon, stand-upon for spying rocks, etc., and even for covering the mechanical bits!  Becky got a lot of time as chief navigator, and is pretty comfortable minding the store as I take the helm.  We learned a lot about maintaining trim, both while running, and at night.  Plus, we now have full command of fuel management, which requires some care using tanks 7 inches deep and running some five feet fore and aft under the floorboards.  One we get ’em full, we are good to go, and our range is good, at some 2 gallons/hour, running 15 knots on plane and about 7 knots off plane, for an average of about 10 knots ove a typical day’s mix of making miles and gunk holing/sight-seeing.  The Westerbeke performed flawlessly, ran cool, and had plenty of power for all our needs, even loaded with four adults and one full-size dog.  That engine is a really sweet package.  I am totally satisfied with it; on the dock, it always commands a lot of attention … enough I am becoming loath to pop the cover when people ask what is under there!

Later I might have some more precise fuel numbers at sustained speed, and some photos up, as well.  Also in the hopper, some boat bling in the form of custom name boards, which may get mounted before some family duties in Southern California divert me for a couple weeks plus in June.

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